In a surprising upset, Mine That Bird took the garland of roses at the 135th Kentucky Derby today at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The $9,500 gelding was a 50-to-1 underdog.
The Cinderella results were a much-needed publicity boost for the fabled race, and for the sport, both of which had suffered damaged reputations after filly Eight Bells was euthanized on the track at last year’s Derby. Earlier, 2006 Derby winner Barbaro suffered his own injuries at the Preakness Stakes.
So it was with some apprehension that 153,563 fans watched No. 8, Mine That Bird, flit around the muddy track this evening. Jockey Calvin Borel guided the filly on her back-to-front victory, skimming the rail the entire race; it was Borel’s second Derby victory. In 2007, he rode Street Sense to a similar victory, for which he was invited to the White House and introduced to Queen Elizabeth II.
Chip Woolley, who trained the horse, was on hand in a black cowboy hat to celebrate the victory, despite having broken a leg in a motorcycle accident. Wolley is a former bareback rodeo champion now based, with the horse’s owners, in New Mexico.
Mine That Bird’s stunning victory was the second-biggest upset in Derby history, and won her Western owners $1.4 million. For every $2.00 wagered, the filly paid back $103.20. Said Bob Baffert, Hall of Fame trainer to top horses, of the champion and her team: “Those cowboys came with a good horse.”
Internet odds-maker BetFirms.com had, days before the race, written of the winner: “No. 8. Lowest-rated horse in the field, by any standard. Stay away.”